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Teaching Children, Not Just Teaching Reading: Growing Readers, Growing Reading

Published On: October 6th, 2022 | Categories: Latest News |

Dr. Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind

This is part II of the blog series  Teaching Children, not just Teaching Reading. Read part I of the series here.

“When we depend on any single measure to make decisions about our students, those decisions are likely to be faulty. From standardized tests to classroom grades, we cannot expect one score to reflect a child.”

Dr. Mary Howard 

This fall, we are co-teaching a graduate course on early literacy. The students are all classroom teachers, working in different schools at a range of grade levels. Recently, we explored the concept of reading growth. We started the conversation with the question: “How do your schools currently define and measure growth in reading?” 

Their comments included:

  •  “When students go up in reading levels, we see that as growth.”
  • “The students can read more fluently according to the computer-based assessment.”
  • “Students score higher on our standards-based report card.”
  • “Students can read more words on a word list.”

The general theme of their answers was that reading growth is defined by a mastery of standards or skills and, as a result, is bound by what can be readily measured and quantified.  

Of course, these observations are indications of reading growth. We celebrate when a student moves up a level. Students should be applying a wider repertoire of skills and strategies. But what is missing? What about meaning making? What about joy? What about book talk? 

 We then asked the graduate students to contemplate what reading growth can or should encompass, prompting them to reflect on the growth they observe daily in their classrooms.  

Their comments included:

  • “Some students go from reading because they have to to reading because they want to.”
  • “My third graders are able to sustain engaged reading for longer stretches of time.”
  • “My students are falling in love with new authors and series. They scramble to take books home.”
  • “I had a student who rarely spoke, and she is beginning to share her thoughts about her reading with a partner.”
  • “For the first time, I was able to confer with a number of students, because the other students were so involved in their reading.”
  • “I had a student from last year come to my classroom to show me what she is reading in her new classroom.”

We all have students who do not show growth according to the data. These students may not have scored higher on a state test or improved their ability to write a concise summary; however, we can see that they have grown in so many other ways that frequently go unmeasured. When we expand reading growth to encompass the strengths of readers and their reading, we acknowledge students who:

  • Reflect on who they are as readers
  • Can and want to read for longer periods of time
  • Have favorite books and know their preferences, and also try new genres
  • Use a variety of strategies independently
  • Respond to texts in a variety of ways, including giggling, sharing favorite parts with a partner, and recommending books to classmates
  • Want to keep reading so that they can find out what happens next 
  • Collect books on the same topic so that they can learn more
  • Do something at the end of a book
  • Declare: “I am a reader.”

The list of all the ways in which readers can grow goes on and on. While school systems control how reading growth is defined and measured, we can act agentively and broaden our understanding of reading growth. We can share that information with the students and their caregivers. By noticing and naming children’s strengths in reading and as readers, we can bolster their confidence, grow their self-efficacy, and support readers who read for meaning in and beyond the classroom. 

Register today for LitCon 2023 to hear Jennifer and Hannah in their presentation Trusting Feedback: Promoting Growth, Agency and Identity on Monday, January 30. Hannah Schneewind and Jennifer Scoggin are the co-creator of Trusting Readers, a group dedicated to collaborating with teachers to design literacy opportunities that invite all students to be engaged and to thrive as readers and writers. Together, they published Trusting Readers: Powerful Practices for Independent Reading with Heinemann in the spring of 2021.

Dr. Jennifer Scoggin has been a teacher, author, speaker, curriculum writer, and literacy consultant. Jen is an advocate for both teachers and students and is most happy when she is working alongside children in classrooms. Jen is also the mother of two book lovers; nothing makes her more proud than that. Jen began her career teaching first and second grades in Harlem, New York. In her current role as a literacy consultant, Jennifer collaborates with teachers to create engaging literacy opportunities for children. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Teachers College, Columbia University and has previously published two books about literacy instruction and life in the classroom.



Hannah Schneewind has been a teacher, staff developer, curriculum writer, keynote speaker, and national literacy consultant. She brings with her over 25 years of experience to the education world. Hannah’s interest in student and teacher agency and her belief in the power of books informs her work with schools.



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